One great thing about watching Junior Major hockey is seeing the future stars of hockey. Ever since he was drafted by the Erie Otters in 1997, forward Tim Connolly was touted as a high draft choice in the 1999 NHL Entry Draft and being a future star of the NHL.
On June 26th at the FleetCenter in Boston, the first part of the above statement came true. The New York Islanders, who had the 5th selection overall, selected Connolly. While it is quite an achievement for a player to be selected in the first round, Tim had two other noticeable achievements with his selection by the Islanders. Tim was the first player selected from the CHL, and the OHL, and was the first North American born player selected in the draft. A native of Baldwinsville, NY, Connolly stated that, “It is a great honor to be the first North American player selected in the draft”.
Connolly has been a standout player for the Otters the past two years. Tim has dazzled Erie fans, OHL fans and OHL opponents with his superb skating and puck-handling skills. During the 97-98 year with Erie, where he won the Otters Rookie of the Year, Tim scored 30 goals and 32 assists for 62 points. During the 98-99 season, Connolly scored 34 goals and 34 assists for 68, in spite of playing 13 fewer games. In a February game against the Windsor Spitfires, Connolly suffered a broken leg, which ended his play for the remainder of the 98-99 season. In spite of this injury, Connolly still finished as the leading scorer for the Otters.
The Mississauga Ice Dogs innaugural season was tough one, to say the least. They finished last in the OHL with a record of 4W-61L-3T. The Ice Dogs were also dead last in goals for (145) and lead the league in goals against (426). If there was any silver lining to last season’s poor showing, it was that it enabled them to select first overall at this year’s OHL Entry Draft. This pick landed the Ice Dogs arguably the best junior hockey prospect since Eric Lindros, in the form of Jason Spezza. Under the tutelage of coach Jim Hulton, who returns for another season, look for the Ice Dogs to make some improvement over last year. Of course, when you’re at the bottom, the only way to go is up.
1999-2000 SEASON PREVIEW
The Ice Dogs will be looking to junior phenom Jason Spezza to help with their offensive attack. Last season as an underager with the Brampton Battalion, Spezza had 18 goals and 44 assists in 58 games. Also expected to improve on last season’s totals is centre Lou Dickenson. The Ice Dogs 1st OHL Draft pick in 1998, 2nd overall, had a total of 19 goals and 27 assists in 62 games in 1998-1999. Overage goal production should come from captain Scott Page, who is expected to return this season. He lead the Ice Dogs scoring last year with 20 goals and 30 assists in 66 games. Other key offensive contributors are Fraser Clair (6-12-59games, Chad Wiseman (11-25-64games), and Sebastien Savage (10-15-57games).
DEFENCE Read more»
Most Islander fans cant even pronounce most of the Islanders late round picks this yera yet alone know much about their games. Team management is thrilled with their draft believing that they stole a few very good players and may have gotten some keepers that fell through the cracks. One of these players is right winger Juraj Kulnik. “Not many times can you get a guy this skilled in the fourth round,” said Isles scout Mario Saraceno. “He’s a goal-scorer and that’s how he will make it in the NHL.” Kolnik, who is Slovakian, notched 42 goals and 84 points in 62 games with the Rimouski Oceanic. The Slovakian sniper’s hot hand didn’t stop there as he netted nine more tallies in 11 playoff games. Not a bad rookie year. And according to Saraceno, Kolnik has his sights set on 60 next year. “He has tremendous hands,” said Saraceno. “He’s not the biggest guy in the world, but his ability to get open and avoid being checked makes up for that.” The Slovakian is fluent in English and should have no problem fitting in with the Islander locker room in the near future as countrymen Zdeno Chara and 1999 first-rounders Branislav Mezei and Kristian Kudroc will be there. Besides his goal-scoring talent, there’s a lot to like about the 5-11, 182-pound Kolnik, according to Saraceno. “He’s a hard worker and plays in traffic,” he said. “He kills penalties and has a pretty good skating stride. There’s of course some room for improvement in his overall game. The desire is there, however, and I think we got a keeper that fell through the cracks.”
#18 – Senior, Captain
University of Maine Black Bears
5′ – 7″, 170 lbs
North Vancouver, British Columbia
Breakdown: An exciting and explosive playmaker that has anchored UMaine’s top line for three seasons. Recorded a hat trick in JC Penney Tournament final. Scored a pair of goals in early-season win over nationally ranked New Hampshire. Named Most Valuable Player of both tournaments that UMaine has played in (1998 JC Penney Hockey Classic and 1998 Governors Cup Tournament). Named Hockey East Player of Week (November 30). First Hockey East player to ever receive the Len Ceglarski Sportsmanship Award twice. Third in the Nation in total points. Ranks eighth in the nation in points per game and seventh in assists per game. Leads UMaine with 13 multi-point games. Named games First Star four times this year. What is said about Steve Kariya? He has tremendous skill. Hes a game-breaker who keeps the other team back on their heels. If Steve Kariya isnt the best player in the league, he is one of the top two (Quote From University of Maine) What Can We Expect? Steve is a great player. Although he is not to be confused with his brother, sensation and NHL megastar, Paul Kariya, his style of hockey is similiar. He will be a key part in the Canucks organization and will likely be playing as soon as next year.
In English, the name Örnsköldsvik means “Eagle Shield’s Bay.” To hockey fans, it means something else; the home of MoDo Hockey’s now-legendary junior development program. To date, MoDo Hockey has had 28 of their players selected in the NHL Entry Draft. Among Swedish clubs, only Färjestad BK (29) has had more.
The MoDo draft legacy began in 1976, when the NHL draft did not draw nearly as much attention as it does today, especially not in Europe. While European players in the NHL were still relatively few in number, however, the trend was starting to grow by 1976. Following the success of Börje Salming (and to a lesser extent, Inge Hammarström), NHL teams had begun to look more seriously to Sweden as a talent source for the league. This was a radical departure from the days when even the weakest NHL teams gave no consideration to trying to sign top Swedish stars like Sven “Tumba” Johansson and Leif “Honken” Holmqvist. The NHL success of Salming and the strength of the Soviet hockey machine forced NHL teams to sit up and take notice. There were 5 Swedes chosen in the 1976 NHL draft, including Björn Johansson, who became the first European to be selected in the first round of the NHL draft. 1976 was also the year that MoDo had their first player chosen, when Thomas Gradin became the third pick (45th overall) of the Vancouver Canucks. Gradin went on to become a scoring star for Vancouver, making a lot of NHL teams kick themselves for having been beaten to the punch by the Canucks. Today, Gradin heads the Canucks European scouting department.